Suffolk Legis. Rick Montano's Democratic primary challenger Monica Martinez has accused him of "absent leadership" by refusing to chair a legislative committee.
Martinez, 35, sister of Babylon deputy supervisor Tony Martinez, who was co-chair of Steve Bellone's transition team, made the charge in a letter to about 80 local community leaders in Brentwood and Central Islip.
"Our community cannot afford another two years of absent leadership," Martinez wrote in the two-page letter.
"I was stunned to learn that Legislator Rick Montano turned down the opportunity to serve as chairman of the Legislature Human Services committee," Martinez wrote, noting the committee deals with issues related to youth programs, child care and victims of abuse.
"I can hardly think of a more important committee for our community. Yet, when given the opportunity, Rick Montano decided not to chair Human Services," she wrote. And despite his seniority, she added, he "isn't chairman of any committee."
Montano would not respond to the letter, saying only "I don't know the woman. Call me after July 11th," alluding to the last day for candidates to file nominating petitions at the county board of elections. Both candidates need a minimum of 500 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) assigned Montano, who had been chair of the Ways and Means Committee last year, to become chairman of Human Services. Montano instead asked for a reassignment off Human Services and veterans and seniors to the Health Committee and Government Operations Committee.
"He certainly hasn't endeared himself to many people, including myself," said Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), the majority leader, who replaced Montano as Human Services chair. "But at this point I'm not taking a position."
Critics maintained that Martinez's candidacy is being engineered by Bellone supporters because Montano, a frequent maverick, has clashed with the administration. Bellone aides say the county executive is playing no role in the primary.
Martinez's brother is actively helping his sister's campaign even though he is deputy Babylon supervisor and a town board member. Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer, who is also Babylon supervisor, said he supports Montano as the party's designee.In her letter, Martinez, assistant principal in Brentwood's East Middle School, also issued a five-pronged plan to revitalize the community, including creating youth centers with afterschool activities and and job training in Central Islip and Brentwood as an alternative to gangs. She called for a cordinating council to bring together schools, police and community forces to identify needed services and deliver them. She also called for a public-private partnership to help fund initiatives and backed the Heartland project to spur economic development.